Recent UMC headlines tell some of the story—Pastor defrocked by United Methodist officials; Pastor faces credentials loss over gay weddings; UMC suspends minister for performing same-sex union; Rift grows for United Methodists; Bishop drops case on gay marriage; Kansas UMC Bishop pledges hundreds of trials. Schism—it’s such a loaded word!

Methodists are really struggling with just how United we want to be… so, maybe it’s not such a hot issue for many folks, but in our circle of church leaders and church folks—it’s burning white-hot. One of the journals, many clergy and other church leaders read is The Christian Century. Click here if you would like to read their April 2014 cover story which raises the question about a split (schism) in the UMC.

In 2012, our UMC General Conference, meeting in Tampa, some forty years after first proclaiming that “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” the Church once again failed to reach any reconciliation over this divisive issue. Now, over these last few years, more pastors have been brought forth on charges, there have been church trials, pastors have been “de-frocked” and the UMC is struggling with questions about schism.

First, a little history: Methodism began in England in the 1700’s, when the Church of England basically told John Wesley that he couldn’t preach outdoors (away from the cathedrals of the church). After coming to the American Colonies, some Methodists stayed to create the Methodist Episcopal Church (M.E.C) in America and others went back home to England, but later returning as “Episcopalians.” Facing closed doors—former slaves and others, broke away from the M.E.C. and formed the “African Methodist Episcopal” (AME) Church and later, the AME-Zion Church and in the South, the “Colored Methodist Church” (CME—later changing the ‘C’ to mean “Christian”). In 1844, some 17 years before our nation did, the Methodists split North and South, over the issue of Slavery. It took almost 100 years (1939) for the northern and southern branches of our denomination to come back together again as the Methodist Church and then later merging with mostly German Methodists (Evangelical United Brethren) in 1968 to become the “United Methodist Church” of today. Only four short years later, in 1972, the General Conference made its homosexuality is incompatible statement. Our history certainly is a rich one of uniting and dividing….

Seventeen years ago (March 1997), St Johns adopted the label of being a “Reconciling Congregation” and our forebears (which may have included some of the same folks today) adopted our “Who We Are” identity description we print in our worship bulletin. We were the first congregation in the Florida Conference and one of the first in the South to declare our Reconciling stance. It was a courageous act and remains so today.

And today, the UMC struggles with whether to be fully inclusive. Many of you may not have access to all of the writings and discourse that is across the “airwaves” (does anyone even use that term anymore??) but our UMC certainly struggles. If you are interested in the issue, let me know (email me at PastorTGlenn@gmail.com) and I will share some of what’s happening. Click here if you want to connect with the “Reconciling Ministries Network” which is a great place to keep up to date with all the news about “Reconciling Ministries.”

All over our nation, in a variety of ways, States are moving towards Marriage Equality. UMC pastors and churches in those states are facing the dilemma of following the Discipline’s (UMC lawbook) requirement to offer the ministry of the Church to ALL people and the Bible’s call to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. Yet, at the same time, others are demanding following an outdated (its not the first time the Discipline is outdated—see prohibitions against women being ordained) proscription in the Discipline against homosexuality based on six or seven verses of the Bible (usually proscribing against the practice of rape and abuse and bullying found in the references against the sex acts listed).

Blogs and articles are appearing almost daily right now about this division in the United Methodist Church. Here’s some (click on title to read online):

If you would like to keep up to speed on these matters, be sure to let me know and I will send you specific links and emails and tweets. I will also occasionally blog about it on our church’s website (if you haven’t been there in a while—it can be found at www.StJohnsMiamiBeach.org. We need some help to keep it current, but that’s a story for another day).

Members of our St Johns congregation will walk and worship as part of the Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade on Palm Sunday, April 13. We are sponsoring a couple of films as part of the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in May (more about this later). We have new T-shirts of our “We Believe in the Separation of Church and Hate” available. Some folks have asked us to lead a new discussion about what it means to be Reconciling and we are also planning for that.

We’re proud to an integral part of this Reconciling Congregation of the United Methodist Church and appreciate the Legacy laid down some 17 years ago. It’s worth the recognition and celebration of being Open to All!

Pastor Gaye & Pastor Glenn

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